How the four noble truths have helped me change my life…

10361lplrcbt_life_is_good_leaf_pile_rocket_logoIt’s been a really good week. I mean really good. I feel more grounded and balanced than I have in a long time. Maybe more so than ever. I get so much done but I still have plenty of time to think and reflect, meditate and do things for me. Things that make me happy.

Positive seems to be my new black. I am somewhat surprised to be honest at how I have genuinely changed. How I don’t let things, or people, get to me anymore. How I don’t get rattled and thrown off balance, even when things don’t go as planned, or even when they go very wrong. I am genuinely positive. I genuinely don’t worry. I genuinely don’t hash over stuff and it is such a liberating and inspiring place to be.

I am putting myself out there – trying new things – connecting with old and new friends. I don’t flake out on people anymore like I used to. I don’t get insecure or scared, or lose my confidence at the last minute. I am strong. I am content with my life and I have stopped craving for all the things I don’t have, or can’t (?) have. I do what I want. I get what I want. And I live in the moment.

It doesn’t mean in any way that I am reckless. That is how I used to be. Now I just enjoy life, without going overboard and getting crazy in any direction. Not crazy negative. Not crazy angry. And not crazy happy. I have found that golden middle way. I have found my equilibrium – but it is in no way the boring “flat line” equilibrium I always feared it would be. On the contrary, it is a constant state of happiness and highly productive state, without draining me and depleting every level of my consciousness.

Because I chose to be happy. I chose to live in the now.

I have referenced the Venerable Ajahn Brahmavamso (or Ven Ajahn Brahm) more times than I can count by now and I am almost at the verge of declaring him my saviour. The way he teaches the Dhamma resonates with me on so many levels – but mostly because he serves it with dry British wit and in such a modern way I guess. I listen to his talks or follow one or more of his guided meditations every day now and they help remind me of the things that are important in life. He helps me stay focused on what is important in life and what is not. And he inspires me to want to learn more.

Last Sunday I mustered up the courage to visit Atammayatarama Monastery, for the Sunday service and it was like coming home. Not because of the temple, the service or meditation but because it is a thriving but small Thai community here in Seattle. Just being around Thai people, Thai culture, Thai food…. Hearing the language. Seeing all the smiles. Being greeted by the wai by everybody, men and women, even though I am clearly not Thai. They didn’t look surprised. They didn’t treat me differently. They didn’t frown. Already parking I felt welcome as a Thai woman drove past, letting completely go of her steering wheel, giving me a big smile and the wai before I even got out of my car.

It made me feel at home. It made me feel welcome. It made me feel like I belong.

I had forgotten how beautiful the Thai culture is. I had forgotten how welcoming this people is. How they never seem to discriminate or criticize. How I could just go there and immediately be embraced and treated as I belonged. As if I was one of them. I didn’t need to feel self-conscious. I didn’t need to worry about doing anything wrong. If I did, someone would have kindly told me, and all would have been forgiven (as long as I don’t wear my shoes in the temple or touch a monk that is – but those things are kind of obvious even to the most oblivious farang and I have been trained well by my beloved Thai family, so I got the basics alright… ;-)).

It was the first time I went to the temple for a formal service. I have been to many temples in Thailand, many times, paying my respect to the Lord Buddha and sitting there watching the Thais pray/meditate and offer gifts to Him. But this was my first time participating and it was a nice feeling. I thought when I left that “this was nice. I will probably go back once in a while but I won’t go every Sunday… I’ll try to stop in every month or so.” But here I am, on a Friday night, and I can’t wait for Sunday morning to come so I can go back.

The sense of belonging and community is a big part of the attraction of course but so is the Dhamma. I have learnt so much, and I have grown and evolved so much in such a short time, by embracing the Dhamma and trying to live by it. And I am not perfect. I am nowhere near perfect but the beauty of the Dhamma is that you don’t have to be.

There is no prestige. There is no concept of striving for perfection, climbing up the ranks or doing more or better, like in all other religions. Because the fundamental belief is that is craving, striving, trying to attain things that is the root of humanity’s suffering.

4noble

This is the essence of the four noble truths and recognizing that, and focusing on the second and third of the noble truths has helped me a lot. I don’t want you to think that I have become a religious nutter – and I say this mostly to my Swedish and other agnostic friends – but keep in mind that Buddhism is so  much more a philosophy of life than a “religion”. And tell me that you can’t all benefit from two simple (??) things:

  1. stop beating yourselves up over past mistakes and stupid things you did – the past is in the past. It is gone, It is finished. You can’t change it.
  2. stop worrying about the future – you don’t know what will happen, when or how so why spend so much energy on worrying about it?

Make the most of the now instead. Make every moment of every day count and be happy where you are, instead of being miserable because you are striving and craving something that may never be. What is the point? Don’t you realise how stupid that is? How much energy you waste when you do that?

And how many things and how much time you miss out on, right here and right now, because you life in the past and/or the future?

To me the four noble truths make complete sense, and embracing them has indeed made me a much more positive person than I used to be. As most laymen I presume, I focus most of my energy on the second and the third noble truth – to stop craving all the time and be happy with where I am and what I have – to simply live in the now! And it works…. 🙂

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